Among the barrels, bintangs and befuddling local driving etiquette, you can have a lot of fun in Bali without trying all that hard. Still; in an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, to visit only one would be a shame, so with this in mind we loaded up our rented 4wd and headed for Padang Bai, the ferry terminal on the island’s eastern shore. It was the first step in a journey that, if all went to plan, would take us across the neighbouring island of Lombok and onto the southern coastline of Sumbawa.
After an uneventful crossing of the Lombok Strait and a night in the bizarre city of Mataram, where simple, corrugated iron covered warungs stood just across the road from a sparkling mega mall, we reached the port at Labuhan and boarded the ferry to our final destination.
Until now we had managed to blend in among the crowds but as we headed up on deck, there was a palpable sense of curiosity and intrigue at the sight of four pasty Brits so far from the established tourist zones. We were soon the most popular people on board and it felt a pity to head back to the anonymity of our car a couple of hours later, having been invited to speak at a nearby school and attend a wedding.
On the road again there was a sense that we had found the side of Indonesia we had been looking for. The pace of the traffic ahead, whether by two wheels or four hoofs was slower, the smiles and waves as we passed, friendly and unassuming.
Some food in the company of multiple generations of charming roadside vendors and we reached our first stop in the stifling humidity of early evening, with just enough light to glimpse a row of sparkling blue lines peel across a glistening bay of white sand.
We woke to the sight of a powerful right hander breaking down the beach and quickly fell into a routine of marathon morning surfs with just enough time to relax in the shade and refuel before the sea breeze subsided and the evening session began. Set beneath a steep canvas of luscious jungle, we endured days of playful, peeling walls and great, cascading sections in the company of no more than two, possibly three others.
With all our prayers answered at a wave none of us knew existed until a week ago, we pushed on to the island’s famous A-frame, wandering just how lucky we could get.
The liquid skate park of Lakey Peak however, has been anything but a secret for a long time and even well outside of high season, we found the small take-off spot tightly packed. Fortunately the staggeringly talented local youth brigade kept the atmosphere in the water relaxed and jovial. Without the aggro that plagues many of the world’s best spots it was a unique experience and left one happy to sit and admire for long periods, picking off smaller but no less perfect set waves when they presented themselves.
A short, painful dance across the reef away, the casual mood was replicated on the beach. Even some cruel scare tactics with the Malaria word from a mischievous Indo veteran and a story about ants passing STD’s (sorry Rhys) couldn’t derail our trip at this late stage.
Instead it was a first step into Indonesia’s vast wilderness, a trip vividly memorable for so many of the right reasons. We found the isolation and cultural immersion we had craved and as the long journey back to the Bukit Peninsular began, our minds were overrun with thoughts of the absurd potential for exploration in this wave-rich wonderland.
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